It’s not about English vinglish

As a child I idolised my mother. What she said was gospel and what she did was the way to do it right. While she was fairly strict with me, she was never cruel and she always listened intently if I was speaking to her. Speaking to her I knew I had her attention, she would nod, ask questions and make sure to tell me how proud she was of whatever small achievement I had made that day. I always knew that she wholeheartedly wanted to know exactly what was going on in my world.

At seven I was confident that leaving my mother alone to go to school would result in her being lonely. I can’t remember where that idea came from but it stuck. I would scream and cry and carry on every morning from kindergarten until midway through the second grade. Beginning when the bell rang and I realized my mother would turn around and walk out through the school gates for many, many hours – and stopping only once I was well engrossed in class often till recess was upon us.

My teachers were baffled, mum let me go on creating these scenes in the hopes that it was a phase and would pass on gradually. One day, it was windy and I think she may have been running late for something, she walked back towards me from the gate. I was stunned into silence, this was a new occurrence, she kneeled in front of me and asked why was I crying so loudly when we both knew that this afternoon I would be bursting to tell her about everything I had learned during the day.

The way she tells it, I hugged her and explained my theory – she would be all alone in our house and that would make her sad. Therefore I was crying for her, because she would be lonely. Mum says she laughed and explained to me that I didn’t have to worry as all my stuffed animals and movies kept her busy until it was time to pick me up. I felt better after that. The wailing and crying stopped.

As I grew, I began to question her responses, her judgement, her choices in life. It’s a part of growing up. Most kids do it. What we forget I think, is that our parents are people too, not some mystical being sent to solely be a part of our worlds. They have dreams, aspirations, wants and a world that we are a part of. Maybe it’s part of being an only child syndrome but it took me years to realize this.
You’ve heard of over-protective parents, but I was an over-protective child. Somehow I always believed that my mother would not last long without me, selfish and conceited, but it was my way. The way I saw it, she needed me to keep her safe, make her laugh, keep her happy. I’m not entirely sure when the roles reversed but probably somewhere after the second grade no doubt.

Then you have children who after reaching the second phase, where parents are questioned, never move onto the understanding part. We were watching English Vinglish today and the little girl who is embarrassed by her mother’s lack of English speaking skills reminded me of so many people I know. People who treat their parents like foreign artifacts, or lesser beings just because they are different to the society we live in. This is true for a lot of first generation Indian Australian children, I’ve noticed a growing trend in the way they disregard their parents completely or mock them at social functions. A joke is funny, but making a mockery of your parents isn’t. Especially people who have struggled through multiple jobs, often low paying, so their offspring can have more chances in a better place then wherever they may have been raised.

I think Gauri Shinde did a fantastic job with her film, the message isn’t blatant, but subtle as you see a simple, minimally educated mother trying very hard to find acceptance in her daughter’s world of English speaking friends and Western ideas. Ironically, if the daughter had given her mother a chance, she would have realised that her mum was quite modern and free thinking regardless of her English communication skills. Language isn’t everything and to judge people based on what they don’t have isn’t fair to them or yourself in the end.

My mother is my whole world, she’s my friend, sibling, grandmother and all those other relationships. Even now when I understand that my mother is fallible, I still ask her advice and thoughts on major decisions. Some part of me knows that her opinion will be honest and well considered, she won’t tell me what I want to hear, but rather what she thinks in light of everything I have told. Honest critics are hard to find, so are people who love you unconditionally – luckily parents can be a bit of both, if you let them.

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